Baroness Warsi announced on Monday that she has quit the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union because she thinks that it has been using hateful and xenophobic language.
Tory peer Warsi, who was formerly the party’s co-chair the and communities minister, has defected to the Remain camp after condemning the Leave campaign in the strongest terms.
She told The Times newspaper that the “final straw” for her was hearing UKIP leader and Brexit-advocate Nigel Farage defend a poster with the slogan “breaking point” depicting a large number of refugees walking in a field.
The poster sparked outrage across the political spectrum. Remain campaigner George Osborne compared it to Nazi propaganda and Farage’s fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove told BBC presenter Andrew Marr that he “shuddered” when he saw it.
Speaking to The Times, Warsi said: “That ‘breaking point’ poster really was — for me — the breaking point to say, ‘I can’t go on supporting this.’ Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me that’s a step too far.”
Warsi added that her issue with the Leave campaign relates to the nature of the whole campaign — not just the poster. Chiefly, she cited the failure of Leave campaigners to moderate the language they were using to argue for a Brexit.
“I look at that group of people and I think they’re not the kind of people I’d get on a night bus with,” she told The Times.
“Why would I want them to run my country? I don’t want the Leave camp to be running this country and I don’t want the messages coming out of that camp to form the basis of the kind of Britain that I want to live in and to bring my kids up in.”
She also said that Education Secretary Michael Gove has told the public “complete lies” about Turkey’s accession to the 28-nation bloc.
She said: “He (Gove) knows full well that of the 35 chapters only half have been opened and one completed. To try to suggest that this is anyway imminent, or to suggest that visa-free travel isn’t just for Schengen countries, well these are just lies.”
Warsi is not the first Tory to switch from Leave to Remain. Earlier this month, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston did the same after claiming that the former was repeatedly making untrue claims about the cost of EU membership.
However, as far as the Leave campaign is concerned, Warsi’s defection isn’t a major blow to Brexit aspirations.
A Vote Leave spokesperson played down her involvement. They told the Times: “We don’t remember Warsi ever joining our campaign so we are puzzled by her claims to have defected.”
Nigel Farage also tweeted about it on Monday:
Baroness Warsi ‘defection’ is a typical Number 10 put-up job. She never wanted to leave the EU.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) June 20, 2016
Warsi’s defection comes as the Remain campaign is regaining momentum in the opinion polls.
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